The extraordinary French needlework is of a type that has traditionally been ascribed to the embroidery school at St. Cyr, established in the Convent of St. Cyr (near Versailles) in 1686 by Madame de Maintenon (d. 1719), the wife of Louis XIV (and where she retired following the death of the King in 1715). The school was renowned for its production of finely worked panels although there is, in fact, no supporting evidence to ascribe this distinctive type of work to this center.
These fantastical panels are Berainesque in inspiration and the figures relate to French designs (c. 1700-1730) for theatrical costumes in the collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (see L. Wood, op. cit., p. 326, fig. 193). It is likely that pastoral engravings provided a source for their overall format of figures in a naturalistic setting (see N. G. Cabot, 'Engravings and Embroideries', The Magazine Antiques, July 1941, pp. 367-369). Closely related French needlework panels worked in the same distinctive 'bizarre' pattern incorporating large-scale Chinese figures within exotic rococo settings appears on other English furniture of this date, although in all cases the covering appears to have been later associated. Other examples include:
* A set of eight Queen Anne side chairs at the Brooklyn Museum. These were formerly in the collection of Percy Holland, Esq., Cadogan Gardens, London, and later sold by Baron and Baroness Carl von Seidlitz, Ritz-Carlton Hotel, New York, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 3 May 1947, lots 119-122.
* A pair of Queen Anne wing chairs in the Brooklyn Museum. These were formerly in the collection of Lady Trevelyan, Welcombe, Stratford-on-Avon and sold in the same Seidlitz sale at Parke-Bernet, lots 123-124.
* A pair of George I side chairs, the property of a Gentleman, sold Sotheby's, London, 5 June 2007, lot 56.
A pair of chair-back panels of this type is illustrated in L. Wood, p. 326, figs. 191-192. Another is illustrated in L. Synge, Art of Embroidery, p. 335, fig. 325. Similar panels can also be found on French seat furniture of this date such as a suite from the Alberto Bruni Tedeschi Collection, sold Sotheby's, London, 21 March 2007, lots 66 and 66A (worked on a brown ground).
A printed paper label for M. Maryon-Wilson and with the family's coat-of-arms is affixed to the underside of the settee. Sir Spencer Pocklington Maryon Maryon-Wilson, 11th Bt. of Eastbourne, was the last of a long lineage of Wilsons to reside at Charlton House in Kent. Charlton is a majestic Jacobean brick structure built between 1607-1612 for Sir Adam Newton, Dean of Durham and tutor to Prince Henry, the son of James I and older brother to the future King Charles I. Due to the Royal connections, Prince-of-Wales feathers and the Royal coat-of-arms embellish the interior and exterior architecture. The manor was sold in 1680 to Sir William Langhorne, Bart. and it was through distant family connections that the Maryon-Wilson family acquired the house, first bequeathed to the widow Margaret Maryon in 1732. Sir Spencer Maryon-Wilson was Charlton's final private owner prior to its acquisition by the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich in 1925. Christie's conducted various sales on Sir Maryon-Wilson's behalf; however, the settee cannot be located among these offerings. The collection at Charlton included a Georgian silver table that was possibly supplied to Sir Thomas Wilson, 6th Bt. (d. 1798) now in the collection of S. Jon Gerstenfeld, Washington, D.C. (E. Lennox-Boyd (ed.), Masterpieces of English Furniture: The Gerstenfeld Collection, London, 1998, no. 19, p. 201 & pl. 47).
The settee was later acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Melvyn Rollason who were passionate collectors of English oak and walnut furniture and early English clocks. In 1939, they moved to Ludstone Hall in South-East Shropshire, a moated Jacobean manor house for which their collection was especially well suited. Arthur Oswald described the glories of Ludstone in three Country Life articles in January 1952, prior to the acquisition of the settee.